When she first came across Toowoomba, Amanda Hinds thought that she had stumbled upon ‘the Emerald City’.

As a native of the Northern Burnett region she discovered a city green, gorgeous and bursting with local organic produce that contrasted from the dry, dusty climates she was used to. “It was high, close to the clouds, and much colder. It was an opulent place,” said Amanda.

Amanda grew up around farmers and road house managers, learning where local quality food came from and soon discovered a deep, yearning passion for cooking. For her, it was not just an art or a practice, but a love affair, one that flowered into a career in Bundaberg. There, she established Indulge, a café and restaurant that won the Brisbane Times People’s Choice Café of the Year the past two years in a row.

One of the most important factors in Amanda’s cooking? Focusing on local produce from nearby farms, harbouring the flavours and tastes of Queensland and introducing them to her dishes.

“Menus are about farmers, producers, seasons and micro climates. I can’t ever imagine visiting an area and not eating the food and wine of the region,” said Amanda.

During her 13 years as Indulge’s chef, Amanda found that by injecting her menu with local produce in unexpected, quirky ways, she matched her food with the stories behind each piece of produce. Whether it was the food itself, the soil, the breeder or grower, or the variety in each batch, her kitchen’s connection to where her food came from made her restaurant stand out. She is a firm believer in the connection between farmer and chef, and how that link should support both kitchen and producer. She believes that they should work together, to the farmer’s capability and availability. Being flexible and creative with what is seasonal and fresh makes the chef and the restaurant.

Toowoomba’s large home grower industry and European influenced food has drawn Amanda to the region where she perceives an abundance of local fruits, vegetables, meats and fish available to introduce to kitchens and menus. After handing over the reins of Indulge to her sous chef, Amanda is preparing to set up shop at Hampton in the countryside. Although yet to officially make the move, she has worked with Tourism Darling Downs for its launch and the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence Awards, promoting and using fresh produce for the menus. For each event, she curated dishes inspired by the local offerings, such as quail, Stanthorpe crab apples and walnuts.

Now, she is working towards opening a new bistro at Hampton, based wholly around local produce. The opportunity will let her delve into the secret gems of the Darling Downs.

Amanda is passionate about embracing Queensland’s regional offerings, making sure to not just create a meal but convey the food’s relationship to the land. “There are so many super talented farmers and producers in this area and it’s easy to tell the story. You just need to know where it’s from and who grew it,” said Amanda.
Watch this space.